These popular K-beauty watermelon masks and moisturizers keep selling out - we tried the new skin care brand's best sellers to figure out why

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  • Mention the word "watermelon" in any beauty and skincare forum and associations immediately jump to Korean beauty and skincare brand Glow Recipe.
  • Founded by two former L'Oréal execs in 2014, Glow Recipe hopes to make K-beauty more accessible to US shoppers.
  • Judging by the sales of its hyper-successful watermelon-infused skincare products, including the cult-favorite Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask ($45), it has established itself as a brand to watch as interest in K-beauty continues to grow.
  • We learned more about Glow Recipe's journey to $30 million in sales, and tried out its best sellers for ourselves.

Starting a new beauty and skincare brand is risky. In a highly saturated market, it's all too easy to lose footing if you fail to recognize what skincare enthusiasts want from their products. Even more importantly, you must anticipate and lead them to the products they didn't even know they needed.

So how did Glow Recipe, the Korean beauty and skincare startup that has done $30 million in sales in just four years, do it?

For starters, it helps to have founders with proven experience in the industry. As former vice presidents of global marketing at L'Oréal, Sarah Lee and Christine Chang were the only two employees with expertise in both the Korean and American markets.

Lee told Business Insider:

When my partner Christine and I set out to build Glow Recipe in 2014, it was because we saw an enormous opportunity to leverage our bicultural and bilingual beauty backgrounds in a market that was just waiting to become the next big thing - at the time, K-beauty was on the cusp of exploding in the US.

And herein was the white space: the absence of a stakeholder who had the ability to identify, market, and nurture Korean products and brands with the potential to become key players, and make them relevant and appealing to American consumers.

Glow Recipe's mission, Lee says, is "to break down what K-beauty [is] all about, educate consumers on the unique trends coming out of Korea, bring them best-in-class skincare offerings, and make them accessible to American consumers through repositioning and education."

glow recipe kbeauty

The concept of curating and introducing natural K-beauty products to US shoppers led them to everyone's favorite reality competition show "Shark Tank" in 2015, where they accepted an offer with Robert Herjavec. Off-screen, however, Lee and Chang ultimately decided to continue self-funding their business and have done perfectly well without the Shark's assistance.

The company's real breakout moment came in 2017 with the launch of its eponymous brand and Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask product ($45). The mask has sold out seven consecutive times and attracted 5,000-person waitlists, and it was one of Sephora's bestselling products in 2017.

Having officially entered the beauty big leagues, Glow Recipe followed up with additional hits like the Watermelon Glow Jelly Sheet Mask ($8), Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer ($39, sold out within two hours of being made available for pre-sale), and most recently, the Avocado Melt Sleeping Mask ($45).

Glow Recipe/Instagram

Though K-beauty is known for its high levels of innovation and experimentation, its approach to skincare, which Chang calls "skin-tertainment," is also a hallmark. She explains that self-care and pampering lie at the core of skincare, and K-beauty makes this ritual fun, shareable, and accessible with its "unique textures and visual formats."

Another feature of K-beauty is "natural skincare with compelling ingredient stories." You see this clearly laid out in the Watermelon Glow collection, which highlights the nourishing antioxidant powers of the fruit. Elsewhere, brands like Youth to the People are also taking advantage of the properties of superfoods.

We had the opportunity to try some Glow Recipe's fun and innovative skincare products for ourselves, and you can find each of the reviews below.

Shop all Glow Recipe products at Sephora here

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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Picks team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at insiderpicks@businessinsider.com.
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Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask

Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask
Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask, $45, available at Sephora

Insider Picks reporter Mara Leighton tried the product that put Glow Recipe on the map. She says:

Glow Recipe's watermelon mask has been a great, easy addition to my nighttime moisturizing routine a few days every week. The mask smells amazing, and I do wake up to far softer, more hydrated skin in the morning — without the clogged pores that can accompany thicker masks.

However, it hasn't been enough on its own to solve all my dry winter skin problems, and I see more immediate results than long-term. For the extra heavy lifting, I usually look to Neogen's Micro Ferment Essence and Maelove's The One Cream.

Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer

Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer
Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer, $39, available at Sephora

Like a first kiss, you always remember your first encounter with a beauty product. For me, I caught a whiff of this moisturizer's refreshing watermelon scent while browsing the aisles at Sephora and knew I had to try it.

I apply this light, gel-like moisturizer every morning, and it's like I've just splashed my face with watermelon juice (minus the stickiness). It contains hyaluronic acid, which I've discovered is the best way to hydrate my dry skin and works with the watermelon extract to make my skin soft and glowing throughout the day.

Avocado Melt Sleeping Mask

Avocado Melt Sleeping Mask
Avocado Melt Sleeping Mask, $45, available at Sephora

While the watermelon products have a jelly-like, bouncy feel, this mask has a thick and creamy texture expected of its star ingredient, the avocado. On average, I use it twice a week on top of my regular nighttime routine and wake up with noticeably softer skin.

In addition to avocado, which hydrates and supports natural collagen, it features manuka honey, an exfoliating PHA, and pore-clearing kaolin clay. It has a heavier (but soothing) texture that feels especially comforting at the end of a long day, yet still smells fresh and isn't overpowering.

Watermelon Glow Jelly Sheet Mask

Watermelon Glow Jelly Sheet Mask
Watermelon Glow Jelly Sheet Mask, $8, available at Sephora

I love sheet masks and none more so than the jelly ones because of their cooling effects and unique feel. I thought this one, which comes in two parts, was a bit too thin and delicate. Maybe I handled it clumsily, but it tore fairly easily and was also prone to sliding off my face.

When I did have the situation under control, it was a relaxing and delightful experience that helped bring down some unexplained puffiness on my skin. Overall, it was worth trying, but if I'm trying to take advantage of the powers of watermelon and hyaluronic acid, I'd defer to the moisturizer for my hydrating needs.

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